Interdependent Policy Learning: Contextual Diffusion of Active Labour Market Policies

  • Jan HelmdagEmail author
  • Kati Kuitto
Part of the International Series on Public Policy book series (ISPP)


This chapter analyses in which ways diffusion based on interdependent policy learning explains expenditure on active labour market policies (ALMP) in the OECD countries. By applying error correction models using multiplicative spatial Prais-Winsten regressions for analyzing the diffusion of ALMPs in 22 OECD countries from 1991–2013, we find evidence of governments adapting labour market policy strategies that have proven successful, that is, perform well in increasing labour market participation in other countries. However, interdependent learning is conditional on the institutional framework: policy-makers rather learn from the experience of other countries in the same welfare regime. Even more importantly, the results point to the importance of the European Employment Strategy (EES) as an international coordination framework facilitating policy learning.


Error correction models European Employment Strategy (EES) Policy diffusion Active labour market policies Policy learning 


  1. Armingeon, K. (2007). Active labour market policy, international organizations and domestic politics. Journal of European Public Policy, 14(6), 905–932.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beck, N., & Katz, J. N. (2011). Modeling dynamics in time-series—Cross-section political economy data. Annual Review of Political Science, 14, 331–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beramendi, P., Häusermann, S., Kitschelt, H., & Kriesi, H. (2015). The politics of advanced capitalism. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonoli, G. (2010). The political economy of active labor-market policy. Politics and Society, 38(4), 435–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bonoli, G. (2013). The origins of active social policy: Labour market and childcare policies in a comparative perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Braun, D., & Gilardi, F. (2006). Taking ‘Galton’s problem’ seriously: Towards a theory of policy diffusion. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 18(3), 298–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Casey, B. (2004). The OECD jobs strategy and the European employment strategy: Two views of the labour market and the welfare state. European Journal of Industrial Relations, 10(3), 329–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Casey, B. (2009). Learning across borders: Labour market and social policies. International Social Security Review, 62(4), 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Casey, B., & Gold, M. (2005). Peer review of labour market programmes in the European Union: What can countries really learn from one another? Journal of European Public Policy, 12(1), 23–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Checkel, J. T. (2005). International institutions and socialization in Europe: Introduction and framework. International Organization, 59(4), 801–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clasen, J., Clegg, D., & Goerne, A. (2016). Comparative social policy analysis and active labour market policy: Putting quality before quantity. Journal of Social Policy, 45(1), 21–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Commission of the European Communities. (2002). Taking stock of five years of the European employment strategy, COM (2002) 416. Brussels: CEC.Google Scholar
  13. De Boef, S., & Keele, L. (2008). Taking time seriously. American Journal of Political Science, 52(1), 184–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. de la Porte, C., & Jacobsson, K. (2012). Social investment or recommodification? Assessing the employment policies of the EU member states. In N. Morel, B. Palier, & J. Palme (Eds.), Towards a social investment welfare state? Ideas, policies and challenges (pp. 117–149). Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dobbin, F., Simmons, B., & Garrett, G. (2007). The global diffusion of public policies: Social construction, coercion, competition, or learning? Annual Review of Sociology, 33(1), 449–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dolowitz, D. P., & Marsh, D. (2000). Learning from abroad: The role of policy transfer in contemporary policy-making. Governance, 13(1), 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dunlop, C. A. (2017). Pathologies of policy learning: What are they and how do they contribute to policy failure? Policy and Politics, 45(1), 19–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Elkins, Z., & Simmons, B. A. (2005). On waves, clusters, and diffusion: A conceptual framework. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598(March), 33–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Esping-Andersen, G. (1990). The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Esping-Andersen, G. (1999). Social foundations of postindustrial economies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ferrera, M. (1996). The ‘southern’ model of welfare in social Europe. Journal of European Social Policy, 6(1), 17–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Franzese, R. J., & Hays, J. C. (2004). Modeling international diffusion: Inferential benefits and methodological challenges, with an application to international tax competition (WZB-Discussion Paper, SP II 2004-12).Google Scholar
  23. Franzese, R. J., & Hays, J. C. (2006). Strategic interaction among EU governments in active labor market policy-making: Subsidiarity and policy coordination under the European employment strategy. European Union Politics, 7(2), 167–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Franzese, R. J., & Hays, J. C. (2008). Empirical models of spatial interdependence. In J. M. BoxSteffensmeier, H. E. Brady, & D. Collier (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of political methodology (pp. 570–604). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Gilardi, F. (2010). Who learns from what in policy diffusion processes? American Journal of Political Science, 54(3), 650–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gilardi, F. (2013). Transnational diffusion: Norms, ideas, and policies. In W. Carlsnaes, T. Risse, & B. A. Simmons (Eds.), Handbook of international relations (pp. 453–477). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gilardi, F. (2016). Four ways we can improve policy diffusion research. State Politics and Policy Quarterly, 16(1), 8–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gilardi, F., Füglister, K., & Luyet, S. (2009). Learning from others: The diffusion of hospital financing reforms in OECD countries. Comparative Political Studies, 42(4), 549–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Graham, E. R., Shipan, C. R., & Volden, C. (2013). The diffusion of policy diffusion research in political science. British Journal of Political Science, 43(3), 673–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hall, P. A. (1993). Policy paradigms, social learning, and the state: The case of economic policymaking in Britain. Comparative Politics, 3(25), 275–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hays, J. C., Kachi, A., & Franzese, R. J. (2010). A spatial model incorporating dynamic, endogenous network interdependence: A political science application. Statistical Methodology, 7(3), 406–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Huber, E., & Stephens, J. D. (2001). Development and crisis of the welfare state: Parties and policies in global markets. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Iversen, T., & Cusack, T. R. (2000). The causes of welfare state expansion: Deindustrialization or globalization? World Politics, 52(3), 313–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jahn, D. (2006). Globalization as ‘Galton’s problem’: The missing link in the analysis of diffusion patterns in welfare state development. International Organization, 60(2), 401–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jahn, D. (2011a). Conceptualizing left and right in comparative politics: Towards a deductive approach. Party Politics, 17(6), 754–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jahn, D. (2011b). The veto player approach in macro-comparative politics: Concepts and measurement. In T. König, G. Tsebelis, & M. Debus (Eds.), Reform processes and policy change (pp. 43–68). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jahn, D., Düpont, N., Behm, T., & Oberst, C. with Rachuj, M. (2017). PIP—Parties, institutions and preferences: ASPM replication [Version 2017–02]. Greifswald: University of Greifswald.Google Scholar
  38. Kluve, J. (2010). The effectiveness of European active labor market programs. Labour Economics, 17(6), 904–918.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Maggetti, M., & Gilardi, F. (2016). Problems (and solutions) in the measurement of policy diffusion mechanisms. Journal of Public Policy, 36(1), 87–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Martin, J. P. (2014). Activation and active labour market policies in OECD countries: Stylized facts and evidence on their effectiveness (IZA Policy Paper No. 84.) Bonn: Institute for the Study of Labor.Google Scholar
  41. Martin, J. P., & Grubb, D. (2001). What works and for whom: A review of OECD countries’ experiences with active labour market policies. Swedish Economic Policy Review, 8(2), 9–56.Google Scholar
  42. Meseguer, C. (2004). What role for learning? The diffusion of privatization in OECD and Latin American countries. Journal of Public Policy, 24(3), 299–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Meseguer, C. (2005). Policy learning, policy diffusion, and the making of a new order. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598(March), 67–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Meseguer, C. (2006). Rational learning and bounded learning in the diffusion of policy innovations. Rationality and Society, 18(1), 35–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Meseguer, C. (2009). Learning, policy making, and market reforms. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Morel, N., Palier, B., & Palme, J. (Eds.). (2012). Towards a social investment welfare state? Ideas, policies and challenges. Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  47. Nelson, M. (2013). Making markets with active labor market policies: The influence of political parties, welfare state regimes, and economic change on spending on different types of policies. European Political Science Review, 5(2), 255–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Neumayer, E., & Plümper, T. (2012). Conditional spatial policy dependence: Theory and model specification. Comparative Political Studies, 45(7), 819–849.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Neumayer, E., & Plümper, T. (2016). W. Political Science Research and Methods, 4(1), 175–193. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. OECD. (1994). The OECD jobs study: Evidence and explanations. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.Google Scholar
  51. Pierson, P. (Ed.). (2001). The new politics of the welfare state. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Podestà, F. (2006). Comparing time series cross-section model specifications: The case of welfare state development. Quality & Quantity, 40(4), 539–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Radaelli, C. M. (2004). The diffusion of regulatory impact analysis: Best practice or lesson-drawing? European Journal of Political Research, 43(5), 723–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Radaelli, C. M. (2008). Europeanization, policy learning, and new modes of governance. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 10(3), 239–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sabatier, P. A. (1988). An advocacy coalition framework of policy change and the role of policy-oriented learning therein. Policy Sciences, 21(2–3), 129–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shipan, C. R., & Volden, C. (2008). The mechanisms of policy diffusion. American Journal of Political Science, 52(4), 840–857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shipan, C. R., & Volden, C. (2012). Policy diffusion: Seven lessons for scholars and practitioners. Public Administration Review, 72(6), 788–796.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Simmons, B. A., & Elkins, Z. (2004). The globalization of liberalization: Policy diffusion in the international political economy. American Political Science Review, 98(1), 171–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Swank, D. H. (2011). Activating workers? The political economy of active social policy in postindustrial democracies. In D. Brady (Ed.), Comparing European workers part B: Policies and institutions (pp. 9–51). Emerald: Bingley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tepe, M., & Vanhuysse, P. (2013). Parties, unions and activation strategies: The context-dependent politics of active labour market policy spending. Political Studies, 61(3), 480–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tsebelis, G. (2002). Veto players: How political institutions work. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  62. van Vliet, O., & Koster, F. (2011). Europeanization and the political economy of active labour market policies. European Union Politics, 12(2), 217–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Visser, J. (2009). Neither convergence nor frozen paths: Bounded learning, international diffusion of reforms, and the open method of coordination. In M. Heidenreich & J. Zeitlin (Eds.), Changing European employment and welfare regimes: The influence of the open method of coordination on national reforms (pp. 37–60). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  64. Vlandas, T. (2013). Mixing apples with oranges? Partisanship and active labour market policies in Europe. Journal of European Social Policy, 23(1), 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Volden, C. (2006). States as policy laboratories: Emulating success in children’s health insurance program. American Journal of Political Science, 50(2), 294–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Volden, C. (2016). Failures: Diffusion, learning, and policy abandonment. State Politics and Policy Quarterly, 16(1), 44–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wasserfallen, F. (2014). Contextual variation in interdependent policy making: The case of tax competition. European Journal of Political Research, 53(4), 635–875.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Weyland, K. (2007). Bounded rationality and policy diffusion: Social sector reform in latin America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany
  2. 2.Research DepartmentFinnish Centre for PensionsEläketurvakeskusFinland

Personalised recommendations